16th Jul 2022 in Arts

Harpers and historians will join forces in July to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly with five days of music and heritage in a unique cross-community series of events. 

Organised by the Harps Alive partnership, the festival will bring together the finest harpers from across the island to recognise the landmark event that collected music more than two centuries ago for future harpers to learn from and perform.

The festival features three major concerts, smaller recitals, talks and workshops taking place across the city of Belfast, with notable events happening in the very heart of the Cathedral Quarter.


  •  Early Harp Discovery Day: Listen, Learn, Have a Go! with Simon Chadwick and Sylvia Crawford


Saturday 16th July – Clifton House, 2 Clifton St

Make your way down to Clifton House on 16 July to learn more about the ancient Irish harp and be taught a tune while you’re there. With the opportunity to meet the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, you’ll be able to hear this rare instrument played in concert. If you sign up early enough, be one of eight in a hands-on beginners’ workshop where you can have your questions answered at a 45-minute illustrated talk on the fascinating history of the Early Irish Harp.

Harps, copied from medieval to 18th-century originals, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

3:30pm | Free

For more information, go to https://bit.ly/3PqhJO8


  • Citizens’ Manifestation


Saturday 16th July – Assembly Rooms, 3 Waring St, Belfast

Nestled into the junction of North Street and Waring Street, The Assembly Rooms is the oldest public building in Belfast, dating back to 1769. At the centre of eighteenth century social life,1792 saw it as the location of celebration for the Assembly of Harpers. It was here that the Belfast Harbour Commissioners were established, and here that Belfast’s citizens rejected a proposal to set up a slave trading company. United Irish leader, Henry Joy McCracken, was court-martialled here prior to his execution in 1798. Overall, a significant building for the history of the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast as a whole.

Following years of neglect, you’re invited to join the Citizens’ Manifestation at 2.30pm on 16 July to make the case for Belfast City Council to acquire the building for use as a centre to celebrate Belfast’s enlightened 18th century era.

2:30pm | Free

For more information, go to https://bit.ly/3ccSmRx


  • Taking the Tune: ‘3 Tunes to go’ (Workshop and Concert)


Sunday 17th July – St Joseph’s, Sailortown

St. Joseph’s, Sailortown will be host to the ‘3 tunes to go’ challenge on 17 July, as you see how quickly you can pick up a harp tune from Luke Webb, Eilis Lavelle and Lauren O’Neill. Enjoy your relaxing Sunday afternoon as Luke, Eilis and Lauren perform tier favourite Edward Bunting tunes in the Harp Moments concert.

12pm | Free

For more information, go to https://bit.ly/3NXtkDm


  • Gala Finale Concert | Harps Alive, An Chruit Bheo, Harps Leevin


Sunday 17th July – St Joseph’s, Sailortown

St. Joseph’s, Sailortown will open its doors once again for a celebration of our living tradition showcased through the exciting trajectory of present-day harping. Join Kathleen Loughnane as she tells the story to the music of harpers Connellan – William and Thomas, whose music Edward Bunting also featured. Joined by her son Cormac Cannon, you’ll be in for a treat as the sound of the harp and pipes come together as one – the soul and sound of Ireland. Joined by two of the most dynamic players at the time, harpers Anne-Marie O’Farrell and Cormac de Barra will play a scintillating combination of harpers’ music arranged in a contemporary way.

The evening culminates with a tribute to the Belfast Harp Orchestra with Director Janet Harbison, who established the Grammy award-winning harp orchestra in 1992, as harpers from both political traditions come together to become a model of cross-community co-operation. Joined by former members turned professional harpers and soloists singer Mairéad Healy, and whistle player and piper Patrick Davy.

8pm | £20

For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3nWS0Bh

Also taking place throughout the weekend are events in Belfast’s Linen Hall Library, the First Presbyterian Church, the Shankill Road Library, TURAS at East Belfast Mission An Cultúrlann and The Duncairn. The events will feature harpists and musicians such as Aisling Lyons, Paul Dooley and Simon Chadwick.

The Harps Alive events conclude with two free-admission events in Dublin, an illustrated talk, Edward Bunting: The Dublin Connection and a commemoration, Edward Bunting Remembered: Wreath-laying ceremony, words, poetry and harp music.

Aibhlín McCrann, Chair of Cruit Éireann Harp Ireland, said that celebrating the anniversary presented a unique musical opportunity for the harping community.

“Our harping heritage transcends boundaries and has really connected the partners, north and south.

“We are looking forward to welcoming audiences across the city of Belfast to our concerts, talks and exhibitions and in Dublin later in the month.”

For more information or to purchase tickets go to http://harpsalive.com

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